from Executive Director Lacey Schirmers

Greetings and welcome to GREAT Theatre’s production of Native Gardens at the Helgeson Learning Lab Theatre. Featuring state-of-the-art theatrical lighting and sound in an adaptable and flexible space, each experience in the lab is unique and brings audiences closer to the story being told. For Native Gardens, we have transformed it into the backyards of two homes in a historic Washington DC neighborhood. 

As one of the oldest tools we have for examining what it means to be human, theatre is central to connecting people, building empathy, and opening up dialogue. Just as the two couples’ notions of taste, race, class, and privilege are exposed in Native Gardens – we hope this story not only entertains, but also educates, challenges, and inspires you. We invite you to join us for a complimentary reception in the lobby after the show with Mangonadas from Catalina’s Michoacana – our neighbors just down that road that dish up delicious Mexican ice cream and snacks. We encourage you to connect with others to chat about the themes and messages in Native Gardens. What are the key takeaways – for you and for our community? You’re welcome to share your reflections by writing them on paper flowers and adding them to our garden in the lobby as well as our collective perspectives will enrich the experience.

I also invite you to be part of our 2024/25 season! Selected with consideration from over 1200 season subscribers, volunteer actors, GREAT’s script reading committee, staff, and board of directors (and, what we could get the rights to) – next season includes blockbuster musicals and thought-provoking plays that will entertain and inspire audiences. Did you know you save up to 30% when you become a GREAT season subscriber? Just pick 3 or more shows to subscribe and save! 

Beyond what you see on stage, the process of creating theatre is an art that develops collaboration, creativity, confidence, and meaningful connections for hundreds of artists, participants, and volunteers that bring these stories to life. And, it’s through our education outreach programming that many youth are introduced to theatre developing empathy, leadership skills, and self-discovery that will have a lasting impact for years to come. Collectively, this enriches lives and builds a more vibrant community.

As a nonprofit community theatre, we produce theatre experiences with and for the community and it’s all made possible by the generous contributions of time, talent, and treasure of our volunteers, donors, and sponsors. Thank you for supporting the arts by attending today and being part of our story. Enjoy the show!

Post Show Reception

Join us after the show for a complimentary reception with Mangonadas provided by Catalinas Michoacana!

After the performance, we encourage you to connect with others to chat about the themes and messages in Native Gardens. What are the key takeaways – for you and for our community? 

Share your reflections by writing them on paper flowers and adding them to our garden in the lobby! Your perspective will enrich the collective experience.

Director’s Note

Tania Del Valle, a vibrant character in Karen Zacarias’ fascinating play, Native Gardens, explains that the doctoral dissertation she is working on reflects her interest in identity issues:

“I am interested in origins and when we claim them and when we stop. The power of language and place. Native versus foreign. Especially in a country as complicated as the United States.”

I, too, am interested in these ideas. Very. I am also willing to wager that the power and relevance of these ideas have engaged you as well.

Think about how identity themes permeate present-day headlines and internet socio-political discussions. These themes quite naturally arise in conversations about immigration, political parties, and gender. They also surface in discussions about cultural behaviors as well as the interests and choices stemming from educational, vocational, religious, and state/regional backgrounds and affiliations.

Unfortunately, identity issues can lose their brio if they are expressed within the framework of dry, analytical discourse. Conversely, they can become dangerous if they are weaponized in strident political debate.

I believe identity themes are important to contemplate, and that they can retain their vitality and produce abundant rewards if they are presented in the rich art of theatre. Especially if they are expressed wittily, honestly, and sympathetically.

That is exactly what happens when these concepts take root in the delightful, fecund plot of Native Gardens. It is a brilliant comedy whose highly relatable characters are caught up in an emotion-laden border dispute in an affluent Washington, D.C. suburb. The dialogue’s ardent style pushes us to ponder fundamental questions such as: Who are you? Who am I? What is yours? What is mine?

Because my words here are meant only to be “director’s notes” and not a dissertation, I must conclude by saying that the play’s energy and intelligence–and the way in which these elements have been captured so well by our marvelous cast and production team–have imbued my directorial work at GREAT Theatre with so much pleasure. I am honored to have been invited to direct Native Gardens. Thank you, Kendra Norton Dando.

And I am proud to have been part of GREAT Theatre’s noble effort to cultivate a culture of equity, accessibility, and inclusion.

Enjoy the show!

-Director Lorenzo Sandoval

Native Gardens

by Karen Zacarías

NATIVE GARDENS was commissioned and first produced by Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park under Blake Robison (Artistic Director) and Buzz Ward (Managing Director).

“Native Gardens” is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals on behalf of Samuel French, Inc. www.concordtheatricals.com

Karen Zacarías was recently hailed by American Theatre magazine as one of the most produced playwrights in the United States. Her plays include Destiny of DesireNative GardensMariela in the DesertLegacy of LightThe Book Club Play and The Sins of Sor Juana; adaptations include Into the Beautiful NorthJust Like Us and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent. Zacarías has written 10 TYA musicals with composer Deborah Wicks La Puma including OLIVÉRio: A Brazilian TwistElla Enchanted: The MusicalChasing George Washington: A White House AdventureEinstein Is a DummyLooking for Roberto ClementeFrida LibreJane of the JungleCinderella Eats Rice and BeansFerdinand the Bull and The Magical Piñata. Her plays have been produced at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Goodman Theatre, South Coast Repertory, the Guthrie Theater, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Round House Theatre, GALA Hispanic Theatre, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Dallas Theater Center and many more. Zacarías’ awards include the National Latina Playwrighting Award, the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play, the Francesca Primus Prize, the Stanford University Equity in Theater Award and The Strindberg Citation. She has also been a Susan Smith Blackburn Prize finalist among others. Zacarías is an inaugural resident playwright at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., as well as a core founder of the Latinx Theatre Commons, a national network that strives to update the American narrative to including the stories of Latinos. She is the founder of Young Playwrights’ Theater, an award-winning theatre company that teaches playwriting in local public schools in Washington, D.C., and she is proud to be Arena Stage’s first resident playwright. Zacarías lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and three children. http://www.karenzacarias.com/

Cast List

JOSEPH STANICHAR – Building Inspector/Surveyor
TALIA REYNERO – Landscaper


GIACOMO GORI – Deck/Props Crew
ERIN HARTUNG – Deck/Props Crew


Cast and Crew

Selena Anstine

Selena Anstine

Volunteer Actor

Selena Anstine (Tania) – is a nanny to a one year old. She enjoys playing violin, cooking, and spending time with family and friends. After some encouragement from her husband and neighbor, Native Gardens is Selena’s first show back since high school! 

Jorge Delgado

Jorge Delgado

Volunteer Actor

Jorge Delgado (Pablo) – is a stay at home dad. When not on stage, he enjoys acting, writing and learning piano. He’s been in GREAT shows like Little Shop of Horrors, The Great Gatsby, and Guys and Dolls. 

Nancy Lipinski

Nancy Lipinski

Volunteer Actor

Nancy Lipinski (Virginia) – is enjoying her retirement. In her freetime, Nancy enjoys swimming, gardening, and various art projects. She’s been in shows like The Wizard of Oz and The Diary of Anne Frank.

Luis Maldonado

Luis Maldonado

Volunteer Actor

Luis Maldonado (Landscaper) – is an Electrical and Controls Engineer at Central McGowan Automation. In his free time – Luis enjoys watching movies, listening to music, and taking things apart and ALMOST putting them back together. He’s been in GREAT shows like Little Shop of Horrors, Murder on the Orient Express, and Beauty and the Beast.

Talia Reynero

Talia Reynero

Volunteer Actor

Talia Reynero (Landscaper) – is a Social Media Coordinator for Sun Country Airlines. She enjoys painting, watching movies, traveling with her wife, and spending time with their dogs and cats. Acting has always been on Talia’s bucket list, and she’s excited to take the stage in Native Gardens as her GREAT debut!

Timothy Snook

Timothy Snook

Volunteer Actor

Timothy Snook (Frank) – is an Education Support Professional at Parkside Elementary School. He loves to stay active and enjoys running and rock climbing. He also really enjoys singing different show tunes! He’s loved theatre for a very long time, and Native Gardens is Timothy’s GREAT debut!

Joseph Stanichar

Joseph Stanichar

Volunteer Actor

Joseph Stanichar (Building Examiner/Surveyor) – is a reporter for the Morrison County Record. They enjoy playing different video games, building legos, and acting. He was last in GREAT’s The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical. He had such a fun time in Percy that he can’t wait to take the stage again in Native Gardens!

Gardens and cultures clash in this thought-provoking comedy.

Pablo, a high-powered lawyer, and his wife Tania, a doctoral candidate, are realizing the American dream when they purchase a house in a historic D.C. neighborhood. The couple has big plans for their new home, including a “native garden” made of indigenous plants. Their new neighbors are Frank and Virginia, an elderly white couple who welcome them with open arms. When Tania and Pablo set to work on building a fence, they discover that their property line is two feet into Frank’s manicured English garden. The polite veneer breaks down into an all-out border dispute exposing both couples’ notions of taste, race, class, and privilege. 


Playwright Karen Zacarías is both prolific and influential, known for her insightful exploration of contemporary themes, witty dialogue, and diverse characters. Born in Mexico City and raised in the United States, Zacarías brings a unique perspective to her work, drawing from her multicultural background to craft narratives that resonate with audiences across cultural boundaries.

In line with Zacarías’s body of work, Native Gardens offers a comedic yet thought-provoking narrative, going further than entertainment to delve into the complexities of cultural identity, social privilege, and the nuances of the belief systems that guide us. 

Since its premiere, Native Gardens has garnered widespread acclaim for its timely relevance and sharp humor. Critics have praised Zacarías’ incisive writing and the play’s ability to spark meaningful conversations about identity and belonging. Audiences have been drawn to its engaging narrative and relatable characters, finding resonance in its exploration of cultural clashes and the quest for understanding.

There’s more! Recommended readings to learn more the inspiration for, growth of, and reactions to Native Gardens:

Building the (botanical) Wall – A featured articled in American Theatre, a publication by Theatre Communications Group, which named Native Gardens one of the top 10 plays to produce. 

Syracuse Stage presents the Contemporary Comedy ‘Native Gardens’ An article from where the show debuted

Review: Plots and Resentment Bloom in Native Gardens – An article detailing Native Gardens’ regional debut

Karen Zacarías on Turning Neighborhood Disputes Into a Comedy About Plants – An article about the origins of the Spanish version of Native Gardens

Landscaping with Native PlantsA resource for starting your own native garden!

Why Native Plants Matter An article about the importance of native plants for ecosystems

Planting Seeds of Dissent and Hope: An interview with “Native Gardens” playwright Karen Zacarías A Q&A interview with the playwright

Production Team

MADISON KESSEL – Stage Manager
RIEN SCHLECHT – Scenic Designer
ERIN BORELL – Lighting Designer
MARK HENNIGS – Technical Director
STEVE SANDERS – Sound Designer & Assistant Technical Director
KEIRA GRAY – Sound Engineer
ANTHONY SCHROCK – Scenic Carpenter
PAUL HOPPE – Scenic Carpenter
BONNIE BOLOGNA – Prop Designer & Scenic Painter
JESSICA MANCINI – Costume Designer
DANA SVENSSON – Costume Shop Staff
RISA ALLECI – Costume Shop Staff
KRIS HAFFLEY  – ASL Interpreter


And a special thank you to Jerry Whitley of Whitley Electric.

GREAT is thankful for the generosity of our donors whose annual support bridges the gap between ticket sales and the true cost of producing high quality shows, camps, and education outreach programming to ensure everyone in central Minnesota has access to the transformative power of the arts. Gifts of all sizes collectively make a big impact. Thank you.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Central MN Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.


Micah Alm
Jonah Alm
Neva Andersen
Loretta Anderson
Kyle Anderson
Marianne Arnzen
Angela Aronson
Hope Aronson
Katherine Austad
Donna Balaski
Reese Balaski
Kalli Balken
Jordon Barker
Jill Barrett Vardsveen
Daniel Barth
Vicki Baston
Isabel Becker
Lori Becker
Mike Becker
Kadence Becker
Julie Bell
Nick Benner
Pamela Benson-Moberg
Christina Binder
Sylva Bohannon
Kathy Bokovoy
Bonnie Bologna
Steve Bologna
Devon Bowker
Terri Boysen
Emily (Caspian) Brack
Anna Bregier
Mark Brennan
Alissa Brickman
JoAnn Brisse
Riley Brookshire
Nyra Brown
Sarah Brown
Anthony Brown
Lisa Brownstein
Katie Bruender
Kristi Bryant
Derek Bryant
Alexander Buhl
Travis Bunkers
Breana Burggraff
Anna Bursch
Bradley Busse
Jordan Buysse
Carleena Byrd
Elam Byrd
Amanda Byrd
Varrsha Chenthuran
Katie Christensen
Kelsey Christensen
Mike Christensen
Amelia Clark
Lily Clemons
Ashleigh Cola
Kylee Crews
Bridget Deutz
Cameron DeVillers
Steven Dinndorf
Karen Dinndorf
Joanne Dorsher
Kaelyn Drayna
Charles Dressel
Carla Durand
John Ellis
Drew Elo
Alyssa Euteneuer
Mary Evens
Larisa Filippova
Max Finlayson
Alida Fischer
Jenny Forschen
Kimberly Foster
Madison Franzmeier
Liz Frerich
Carol Funk
Elsa Galler
Deb Galvez
Faith Georgewill
Lynnae Gilder
Ayden Giswold
Shelley Giswold
Sitarah Gjerme
Lori Glanz-Gambrino
Michael Gonzalez
Julie Goodner
Giacomo Gori
Keira Gray
Marijke Groat
Lucille Guinta-Bates
Lowell Haagenson
Tierney Hammer
Mike Hanks
Karen Hansen
Celena Hansen
Sabrina Hanson-Reiter
Erin Hartung
Paulette Hauge
Ellie Hayden
Jazz Haynes
Luca Heinen
Clara Heintzelman
Eddisyn Helmin
Charlotte Hendrickson
Tom Hergert
Susan Heysse
Mark Heysse
Eylee Hincher
Megan Hoelscher
Jacob Hoeschen
Maddison Hofer
Chari Hoffman
Chad Holien
Lydia Hollenhorst
John Hollermann
Paul Hoppe
Mitchell Hurrle
Renae Imholte
Amber Jacobson
Claudia Janku
Wayne Janku
Tim Johnson
Jacki Johnson
Roman Jordan
Daniel Joudieth
Sarah Justin
Lyn Kalis
Michael Kalpakoff
Kathleen Kampa
Denzel Kazeze
Alex Kelton
Madison Kessel
Joyce Kiehn
Peggy Killoren
Buddy King
Jeff Kirchoff
Sophie Kivel
Anna Knutlund
Kate Kompas
Talitha Kopp
Elizabeth Kothman
Mackenzie Krueger
Chris Kudrna
Miles Larson
Sophie Lathe
Ronda Latterell
Andrea Leafblad
Allison Legg
Jonathan Legg
Jimm Legg
Karen Legg
Penelope Legg
Debra Leigh
Shawn Leslie
Alvina Lieser
Grace Lindell
MeiLe Linn
Jan Lochner
Carolyn Lopez
Michelle Lortz
Matthew Luczak
Nate Lundstrum
Kelly Macauley
Marie (MJ) Macauley
Jean Macauley
Annette Majerus
Luis Maldonado
Rachel Marcinek
Mark Martin
Camille Matheny
Molly McAlister
Anne McCarney
Marie (Annette) McConnell
Alycia McLean
Tanieya McLean
Patrick Mcneal
Christopher Enrique Mendez
Anna Mercedes
Nele Mersch
Ellis Meyer
Olivia Meyer
Cassie Miles
Aaron Miller
Diane Miller
Isaac Miller
Joel Miron
Adelaide Miron
Donna Moore
Henry Moore
Sheri Moran
Aric Moriak
Mike Moriak
Del Morrison
Karen Mowers
Roxanne Muehlbauer
Lisa Mullen
Ivy Mulqueen
Megan Myers
Walter Napiorkowski
Tami Naslund
Lance Nathan
Izzy Neisen
Kelly Neisen
Diane Nicholson
Amanda Niemeyer
Ava Nkam
Michael Norberg
Colin Nord
Jane Norman
Luci Novak
Jonathan Noyes
Betty Nystrom
Chad O’Brien
Maddy Oliveira
Brittany Olson
Mary Cheryl Opatz
Abigail Overby
Steven Palmer
Emily Penrod
Adam Pesch
Melissa Peterson
Nelia Peterson
Rebekah Phifer
Mary Phillips
Sally Pitzen
Linda Plamann
Ron Plamann
Mabel Plzak
Jackie Popp
Lori Potter
Sam Pounds
Janet Reagan
Anita Reber
Luke Reber
Mark Reber
James Reichow
Theo Reisinger
Elizabeth Reisinger
Abby Reiter
Jessica Reiter
Clare Richards
Kennedy Riffe
Shirley Ringhand
Denise Roed
Chloe Roed
Nicole Roehrl
Ally Roehrl
Danielle Rogers
Lori Roggenkamp
Joni Rone
Lee Rone
Helene Rosborough
Amy Roske
Pam Roske
Diane Ruegemer
Lori Ruff
Abdulaziz Said
Marc Sanderson
Martha Sanguma
Tim Savarese
Katie Schad
Doris Scharmer
Scott Scharmer
Jessica Scherer
Jason Schindler
Victoria Schindler
Lucy Schindler
Pamela Schirmers
Steve Schirmers
Tate Schlagel
Alex Schleper
Susan Schleper
Susan Schleper
Keegan Schmitt
Aryana Schneider
Renae Schneider
Abigail Schnobrich
Anthony Schrock
Mackenzi Schuft
Mitchell Schulte
Erica Scott
Kyle Seamans
Monica Segura-Schwartz
Bobbi Sells
Jake Sells
Matilda Shouse Tourino
Joey Siemieniak
Kenny Simon
DeDe Simon
Zavawn Smith
Patricia Soltis
Randy Soltis
Kristin Stang
Joseph Stanichar
Al Stark
Perian Stavrum
Grace Steinhofer
Ethan Stoeckel
Wendy Storkamp
Kevin Storkamp
Mara St Pierre
Vincent Strunk
Carol Stuckmayer
Beth Sueker
Isiah Svoboda
Laurie Swan
Willow Sweeney Flaherty
Steve Symanietz
Susan Symanietz
Joel Syvrud
Audrey Taatjes
Burke Tagney
Martina Talic
Alyssa Tasto
Linda G Tenneson
Cole Thomes
Heather Thomes
Emma Thoms-Warzecha
Andru Thornton
Megan Timm
Megan Timm
Bethany Tollefson
Lukas Tollefson
Ivanna Torres Segura
Matthew M Toumi
Christina Tourino
Matt Trombley
Khalil Uvero
Spencer Van Beck
Adela Vang
Steve Vardsveen
Valerie Vedder
Max Vetter
Charles Vilina
Erin Volker
Judy Vosen
Kendra Vossen
Betty Vossen
Theresa Vossen
Elaina Waggoner
Nicole Waggoner
Audrey Waggoner
Belle Waggoner
Cooper Wagner
Kelly Waid
Nihel Walz
Nhiam Walz
Maria Warhol
Paisley Watson
Hailee Weiman
Summer Welch
Kari Wendroth
Alana Wesenberg
Margot Whaley
Teyla Wheeler
Ezrie Wheeler
Ellie Wigham
JaeLyn Williams
Grayson Willman
Barb Wilmesmeier
Mireya Wolf
Haidak Wolfer
Brenda Wright
Kanthi Yalamanchi
Sofija Younglao Talic
Alyssa Zaczek
Audrey Zeiszler
Tanner Ziwicki
Diane Zoeller
David Zoeller

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